India says treat Iran with respect ahead of Ahmadinejad visit

April 20th, 2008 - 7:26 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) Ahead of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad coming to India this month on his first visit, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan Sunday asked the international community to treat Tehran in consonance with its “tremendous influence”. Speaking at the first International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)-Citi India Global forum here, the senior Indian official announced Ahmadinejad “will be visiting India shortly” before visiting Sri Lanka.

Since media reports have said that Ahmadinejad will arrive in Colombo April 28, he can be expected to be in New Delhi in the last weekend of April.

Narayanan pointed out: “Whatever happens to Iran or what others do to Iran has tremendous impact here (in India). We have the second largest Shia population. So, it’s not only a foreign policy issue, but a domestic issue.”

Interestingly, he pointed out that there was a “great deal taking place between India and Iran which is not on the public realm”.

But, Narayanan said that India has avoided “conflict diplomacy” with Iran and neither does it want to be part of any “compact” referring to the negotiations of the group of six nations with Iran over the nuclear issue.

“India is better poised, better placed than anyone else (to talk to Iran). We do not want to be part of a compact. We believe that we understand Iran better,” he said, referring to the long historical and cultural ties with the West Asian nation.

The top Indian official also made an appeal to the international community - “Please do not treat Iran in the manner of any other country”.

“It is a major country with tremendous influence. Please deal with them diplomatically…. with negotiations at the level of erudition and evolved mind,” he said.

The previous visit of an Iranian president to India was of Mohammad Khatami as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in 2003. The last Indian head of government to visit Teheran was prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001.

Last year, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee travelled to Teheran in February and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari was in Delhi in September.

India has traditionally taken the stand that Iran had a right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while fulfilling its international obligations. It has, therefore, diverged from the US stance of imposing sanctions on Iran and preferred an institutionalised dialogue to engage the major West Asian country.

Both countries have a lot of commonality on regional issues, especially Afghanistan, where India is building a road linking the Afghan highways to the Iranian border.

On the energy front, India has been keen to tap Iranian energy sources through a trans-national pipeline and LNG contracts, but both of these major projects are still to take off

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